Republican U.S. Senate
candidate Greg Brannon will soon know whether last week's North Carolina
civil jury verdict against him inflicted serious damage on his
electoral future. That's because the GOP primary is just 10 weeks away.
found the Cary obstetrician gave false or misleading information to
potential investors of a now-defunct technology company, and he must pay
more than $250,000.
Brannon, who had been a company director,
said after the trial that he was "treated unfairly by the court,"
without giving further explanation.
"I will defend my integrity and will be appealing this decision," he said.
opinions are split on whether the verdict, with appeals that won't be
resolved for months, will weigh him down too much before the May 6
"It cuts out the legs underneath him politically. It's
not a death knell, but it's close," said Brad Crone, a Democratic
consultant not involved in the U.S. Senate campaign.
there's not enough time for Brannon to recover as potential voters ask
whether the candidate is trustworthy: "This is going to be real fresh
and real damaging."
But Brannon's allegations of unfairness may
resonate with his base of tea party adherents, many of whom already are
distrustful of contemporary government. His most adamant supporters
right now are sticking with him, with at least one raising suspicions.
think that politics does not stop at the courthouse doors," said Chuck
Suter of Charlotte, founder of ConstitutionalWar.org, a tea-party
organization. "Our legal system is anywhere from perfect."
verdict comes as Brannon and at least five other Republicans prepare for
a sprint to the primary. The winner will take on Democratic Sen. Kay
Hagan in November.
Brannon seemed to be on an upward arc, with
support from grassroots and national tea party groups, conservative
personalities and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Brannon is trying to
win over dispirited Republicans and unaffiliated voters unhappy with
state House Speaker Thom Tillis, one of the primary candidates.
two investors who sued accused Brannon of telling them Verizon was
interested in installing technology being created by the now-defunct
Negoence Enterprises on its smartphones. But Verizon leaders never told
the company that, their lawsuit said. Brannon, a company director,
didn't take the stand in the trial, but his lawyer portrayed his client
as only forwarding information that he believed was reasonably reliable.
far, Brannon's top rivals by name recognition and fundraising — Tillis
and the Rev. Mark Harris — haven't actively gone after Brannon on the
court case. "The findings of the case and verdict of the jury speak for
themselves," Tillis campaign manager Jordan Shaw said by email.
Brannon campaign spokesman didn't respond late last week to emails and a
phone message about the effect of the trial on his primary bid. But
Brannon moved forward the day after the verdict, filing his official
candidacy papers at the State Board of Elections.
Even as jurors
deliberated, Brannon appeared by phone on national conservative
commentator Glenn Beck's radio and TV show. Beck all but endorsed
Brannon. Such support could reap campaign contributions from
out-of-state donors that don't pay as much attention to North Carolina
On the other hand, last week's verdict could prove to
be fodder for his GOP rivals if they need it during a debate or their
Jennifer Brubaker, a communication studies professor at
the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said while the public
can forgive candidates or politicians, other mistakes don't get much
sympathy from voters, such as fraud. Brannon didn't face a criminal
fraud trial, but the jury's verdict pinned wrongdoing on Brannon for his
"We are in a climate right now where we really
have a public backlash against business and businesses not being held
accountable," Brubaker said.
Brubaker said Brannon's current
response to the verdict of unfair treatment could work to his advantage
by tapping into frustrations by tea party members about government.
Getting Brannon's base of support to the polls could help deny Tillis or
anyone else the more than 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a July
runoff. In a runoff, the top two vote-getters would advance.
Brannon's situation is not "insurmountable, but he's definitely fighting an uphill battle," Brubaker said.
Brannon advances to the general election could depend upon voters such
as Ed Toney of Charlotte, a retired Coast Guard employee. Toney said he
liked what Brannon had to say at a recent Mecklenburg County forum, but
he isn't going to judge him until reviewing carefully the trial's
Toney said other candidates probably have made mistakes in the past, too.
"If you dig deep enough, then you're going to find something where they were liable," Toney said.